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New Drug Offers Hope For Human Victims of Mad Cow Disease

British officials are hopeful that a new drug treatment will help victims of the human variety of BSE, or mad cow disease.

Relatives of a 20-year-old British woman say she has overcome most of the symptoms associated with the human variety of mad cow disease following experimental drug treatment in the United States.

Rachel Forber sought out renowned scientist Stanley Prusiner at the University of California after British doctors gave her less than a year to live when she was diagnosed with the brain-wasting variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, or vCJD.

Ms. Forber offered to become a human guinea pig, taking new drugs that had never before been tested on a person.

Her family says that when she arrived in San Francisco in July to begin the drug tests, she was confined to a wheel chair and could barely speak.

Photos published in the Mail on Sunday newspaper show her standing, smiling and hugging her father Stephen.

Mr. Forber told the newspaper his daughter's recovery is living proof that the human form of mad cow disease can be cured.

British authorities are not ready to go that far, but the Health Department says it is encouraged by the Forber case.

A spokesman for the department says British scientists have been in touch with Dr. Pruisner, who won a Nobel Prize in 1997 for his research into the causes of mad cow disease.

The spokesman says further research could be conducted in Britain, where 99 people have died of the human variety of mad cow disease since the mid-1990s.

Variant CJD is believed to be linked to beef infected with BSE: bovine spongiform encephalopathy.